Yesterday we quoted the beautiful words of Paul Claudel that Mary is the unique twofold mother “who brings together in silence in her heart and reunites in one single hearth all the lines of contradiction.” These words give us access to one of the most beautiful titles of Mary: she is the Mother of Unity. This also allows us to understand how she is indeed in a profound way “Mother Church” herself, the innermost mystery of the Church who, as Vatican II said, is the “sacrament” or “sign and instrument both of a very closely knit union with God and of the unity of the whole human race” (Lumen Gentium, par 1).

In other words, the Church is the “space” of unity, with God and with all of our brothers and sisters. She is the place in which “all the lines of contradiction”of division, of hatred, of misunderstanding, of estrangement—are overcome within the unity of a single faith, a common hope, and an undivided love. This is Mary’s deepest and most intimate desire: that all the children of God be one, bound together in a single faith and in the fullness of the Church’s life, which has been entrusted to her by God. In this, Mary is simply reflecting in her own maternal heart the deepest longings and aspirations of her Son, Jesus Christ. For on the night that he was arrested, after unveiling his Sacred Heart before his disciples and giving himself to them in the Holy Eucharist, he prayed to his Father in their presence. And this is what he prayed for:

I pray…for all those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory which you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which you have given me in your love for me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:20-24)

This prayer is so rich, so beautiful, that it deserves prolonged and repeated pondering. Let us only note a few central realities, which show forth the longing that burns like an ardent fire in the Heart of our Redeemer and our divine Spouse.

1) Jesus prays that all who believe throughout history will be united, and thus his prayer is universal in breadth and depth, stretching out through all time and space. There is not a single person who is not called into this intimate unity, whom the communion of the divine life is not meant to encompass and hold within the unity of a single Body. 2) Further, this kind of unity he prays for is not merely an “agreement” or harmony on the human level, but a true oneness on the very model of the intimacy of the three divine Persons themselves, indeed, a sharing in the oneness of the Trinity. Thus Christ’s prayer reaches out not only in breadth and depth, but also in height…into the very bosom of the Holy Trinity, the perfect unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 3) This unity of all who believe is to be “perfect,” so deep and intimate that our unity becomes a kind of “mutual indwelling,” as Jesus says: “as you are in me and I am in you, that they also may be in us.” And we can say that this also enables our “being in one another” through the very power of divine Love within us and binding us together.

4) This kind of unity can only come as a gift, and not merely as the result of our own efforts; it is therefore a grace to be received with open hearts in prayer and radical receptivity: “The glory which you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.” 5) This unity is necessary for the authentic witness and mission of the Church in the world, since any division among her members hinders her transparency in truly being the “sacrament” of unity for the whole of humanity. It is precisely our unity which reveals the depths of God’s own Trinitarian unity, and which has a “magnetic” effect in drawing all human hearts to the “Home of Communion” which is the Church.

6) Our unity is not only a gift of grace, but is indeed the fruit and expression of our awareness of being intimately and intensely loved by God. When we know ourselves, uniquely, to be loved, then we can also see this love shining on the faces of our brothers and sisters. This is what is revealed by Jesus’ words: “that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” The Father has loved us even as he has loved his Son! This means: totally, unreservedly, uniquely, intimately, and forever! We are truly “beloved sons and daughters within the beloved Son!” 7) Finally, this communion that God enables in the bosom of his Church is a real foretaste and anticipation of the unity of heaven, the “House of the Father” toward which we are all journeying. Jesus, who has come to us in our exile in this world, has made himself our divine Bridegroom, and now he goes away to prepare a place for us, so that he can come again and take us to be with him forever, espoused to him eternally in the Home of his Father (cf. Jn 14:2-3). How consoling it is to hear these words of Jesus: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory…” We are a gift from the Father to the Son, and the Son yearns to take us up into himself and to carry us, united with him, back into the welcoming bosom of our Father.

Now, who understands these deep aspirations of the Heart of Jesus better than his own mother? Indeed, she remained present, closer to him than any other, during the climactic hours of his Passion and into the dawning glory of his Resurrection. Therefore, she was able to witness (and to participate in) the mystery of Christ’s atoning death, in which he “drew together in unity in the silence of his Heart all the lines of contradiction!” She is the Mother of Unity because she is perfectly united to the Source of all unity, Jesus Christ.

She experienced, through her compassion with Christ, in which a “sword pierced through her own soul,” that Jesus is the “sign of contradiction” through which “the thoughts out of many hearts are revealed” (Luke 2:34-35). But this sign of contradiction is ultimately a sign of unity—for he unveils the divisions caused by sin only in order to destroy them in his own flesh. In this way he has “broken down the dividing wall” of separation that kept us apart and has “made us all one within himself,” reconciling us to God “in one Body through the Cross” (cf. Eph 2:14-16).

By letting ourselves be drawn into this space of unity within the reconciling Heart of the Crucified and Risen Jesus, we too share in the mystery of communion that is opened at the heart of our world…at the heart of the Virgin Mary and the entire Church.

Reflection Questions:

Mary is the Mother of Unity, joined together to the deepest aspirations of her Son, who unites all of humanity within his own Sacred Heart and draws us to the Father. Do I find in myself a yearning for this unity? Do I find in myself the desire to strive for this unity for the sake of my brothers and sisters?

What stands out to me the most from the prayer that Jesus uttered on the night before his Passion, in which he asked for the unity of all who would believe in him?